How to manage maintenance downtime for your service business?

Maintenance and repair - a set of activities to keep your business running without a hitch. It is necessary but often deprioritized in favor of a customer requirement or a business's core activity, usually leading to disastrous results that hamper the business at an unexpected later time. Although, maintenance often leads to business downtime. Whether it's an IT service business upgrading their employee's software or a massage therapist undergoing pest control and deep-cleaning - maintenance usually requires that the business is suspended for the time being. For service businesses, it is essential that the downtime is managed and scheduled appropriately in order to reduce its impact on the business. Let's take a look at some tips on how to manage maintenance downtime for your service business:

1. Preventive maintenance

Maintenance and upkeep of your business' assets, specifically those that are critical to your services, before they 'break' is what comes under preventive maintenance. Whether it is scheduled maintenance for your air conditioners on your premises or a fresh paint job every few years to avoid peeling and mold on walls. Preventive maintenance for your assets must be scheduled as suggested by the manufacturer or as suggested by the maintenance provider. Ensure that your company has maintenance contracts for all assets - whether it is a software that needs frequent updates or a steam room that requires bi-annual upkeep. Most manufacturers and sellers offer maintenance contracts for their products and are better equipped to carry out maintenance and repairs, especially if it requires spare parts. Choose the right partner and ensure all contractual obligations are fulfilled on time.

2. Corrective maintenance

Corrective maintenance, as the name suggests, refers to repairs and replacements for the business's resources. While preventive maintenance is ensured and carried out with the help of annual contracts, corrective maintenance depends on warranties and guarantees. Every critical instrument in a service business, say a hair steaming machine at a salon, must be covered by a warranty. Companies selling B2B products often offer extended warranties at a price which is a must-have for businesses. In cases of failure or breakage, warranties help businesses recover the repair and replacement costs and overcome the issue sooner. Although, for non-critical assets, such as the CCTV camera or the inventory software, where one can run the business for a short time without their help, corrective maintenance can take some lax. Although, it is always advisable to check routinely and maintain such assets to avoid situations like these.

3. Schedule management

When running a service business, you depend heavily on the appointment schedules to manage your days. Scheduling maintenance activities in your business schedule in a manner that its interference in your business is the least is a talent in itself. First and foremost, ensure that your appointment management is seamless and to the T. Rely on automated appointment scheduling applications such as Appointo that can easily integrate customer UI with the backend and help manage all your appointments from one console. Now that you have visibility into your appointments, you will be able to generate reports from the application itself to help analyze the peaks and troughs of your business. These dips in your business activity will be your time to schedule preventive maintenance activities for the business. Since service businesses tend to have specific business hours (whether open in the day or night), utilizing the non-business hours to schedule updates, pest control, renovations, upgrades, installations, and other such activities is the best way to avoid downtime. On the other hand, for urgent repairs and replacements, scheduling the earliest available appointment with your maintenance vendor and managing the affected appointments is the best strategy. In case of electricity failure or payment problems, since they are highly critical issues, the first response would be to communicate to all your appointments about the issue and see if you can reschedule while simultaneously looking for an earliest solution.

4. Resource management

Another important aspect of maintenance and repairs management is the right choice. The right choice refers to the choice of business that you choose to handle the maintenance jobs - the service provider's expertise, punctuality, discipline, help and support, quality of materials, and the firm's credibility in the market. Since the main objective of maintenance is avoiding breakage and spoilage and prolonging the life of the asset, ensure that the person carrying out the job is a professional. Many businesses favor inexpensive options to cut costs and end up losing value in the long term. As already mentioned, in most cases choosing the manufacturers or sellers' services usually helps ensure genuine spare parts and professional services.

5. Supervision and feedback

Lastly, maintenance activities, when carried out under supervision by employees that utilize the asset, is a win-win. Supervision ensures that the service provider does not skip any maintenance steps and having the user of the asset under maintenance ensures that they know the workings of the product, in case of any emergencies. The employees also help highlight any issues they may have observed which can be corrected by the maintenance worker during the visit. For annual maintenance cases such as repainting the place of business, employees can help point out highly impacted/utilized sections, such as the doorway or the seating area which experiences higher footfall and hence more people scraping the wall. The maintenance worker can then focus on strengthening that section by multiple layers of paint or add solvents that improve the strength of the paint. This extends to most maintenance services - features of a software that is used the most or chairs and equipment that are used the most, and more. Businesses can strengthen or in certain cases help build a backup inventory to keep the business smooth sailing. Employees supervising the maintenance jobs also help with the maintenance providers' feedback and renewal when it is time. Most businesses tend to act on feedback that their customers provide in order to retain them, making the feedback loop a time-saving, value adding activity in this case.

Maintenance downtime is a costly and time-consuming activity that does not directly add to your service business, but as we all know, it's a necessary evil. Summarising the tips, take steps to ensure that the downtime is minimal, that preventive maintenance is frequent so as to avoid corrective maintenance and in cases where repairs and replacements are necessary, carry out a quick rescheduling and instantly book a repair or replacement with your maintenance vendor at the earliest - and you should be good to go! Oh, and a quick appointment management automation with Appointo will not only help you analyze your business activities to schedule the maintenance at the right time, it will also help you manage emergency rescheduling and communications, on the go!

Mukul Chaware

Loves building products. Handling backend at SidePanda. Currently Exploring Digital Nomad lifestyle